13 January, 2012

13 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
13 January, 1945       1415

Dearest sweetheart –

Let’s see, where was I? Oh yes – I was just starting, dear. Well here it is Saturday afternoon and I haven’t had a chance to plan for tonight. I guess I’ll just let things ride and see what happens. I’ve been down to Charlie Battery today. I left here at 1120 and returned a short while ago. I saw Pete and had lunch with him and he sends his best regards, dear. I was busy the early part of the morning and I’ve got a few things to look after later on. Last night was quiet – but we finally got a decent lot of mail and every one was in good spirits – including myself. I got your letters of 2, 5 and 6 of December, several bulletins from the Salem Hospital, a nice letter of Christmas greetings from Walter Phippen, a couple of Christmas cards and some medical literature. In these days, sweetheart, that’s quite a haul.

Letters received nowadays are so old – but boy – are they ever welcome! Your letter of 2 Dec. was written at Marian’s house and it really sounds like a cozy spot. Too bad I couldn’t have been along with you, darling. I’d have kept you warm, I think. It’s really country up there though; I know the region fairly well – particularly Portland. I used to travel up there summers – working for my father and I had several accounts in Portland; on the whole – it’s a rather drab city as I remember it, although it livened up considerably with the influx of summer visitors from nearby beaches.

I was very much interested in your account of the evening spent at the house with several other people there – particularly your statement that “everyone tried to discourage me from marriage”. Why, dear? I could understand it if I were getting ready to go overseas and we were thinking of marriage. But we aren’t thinking of it naturally – until I get back – then why are they discouraging you? I can see only age difference as the argument. Am I correct, dear? I often wonder how many people discuss that angle with you and what the consensus of opinion is. That was always an important point in my own mind and I think about it quite a bit, still.

And then I read your letter of 5 December and although the contents worried me a bit, I couldn’t help but admit it smelled nice. Did you perfume that letter, dear, or can’t you remember. About the contents, darling – and my folks and sisters in relation to you; I don’t know what I can say or do. What you write me is strictly between us of course and I wouldn’t mention a word. As I’ve said before, I know things would be different were I at home and once I get back I’m sure everything will be easier. About my mother’s not calling – you should know by now, darling, that my mother is very retiring and I’ll bet she doesn’t call because she doesn’t want to disturb you; I can’t understand Ruth – unless she’s very busy and with Irv and his operation etc – she probably has been. I do think that both my mother and Ruth could and should call you – but at this point – I’m not going to write them that. I feel that you’re capable and diplomatic enough, darling, to work things out for yourself, but I do hope that everything remains smooth between all of you.

Sometimes I, too, wish we had been married before I left. If there had been some way to guarantee that I’d come back – and the same way as I left – I believe we could have been. As for getting along financially – that would have been very easy. I’m losing out on something like 120 dollars or so per month by not being married and that plus part of my salary would certainly have taken care of you. Any job you managed to get would have been so much gravy. Oh well – it’s pretty hard to plan ahead – when you’re going overseas for the first time, darling; guess I’ve got more experience now.

And no, sweetheart, thanks – but I don’t need warm clothing etc. I have available perhaps 20 or 25 blankets. I’ve got sweaters, gloves and a scarf and I’m pretty comfortable – but thanks for asking. We learned – this outfit did – on maneuvers – and in some ways I guess you could call us field-wise.

I would so love to see you, sweetheart, to talk with you and tell you I love you instead of writing it; to ask you a question and not have to wait 6 weeks for an answer. It is hard – so damned hard at times – but dammit – I can take it and I hope you can, too.

All for now, darling. My best regards to the family and so long for awhile.

My deepest love,


about the Counter-Offensive, Continued

Here is a continuation of Sgt Theodore DRAPER's story of the 84th:
At 0730, 13 January 1945, the 1st Battalion, 334th Infantry, moved out from the La Roche Road to take a hill about 1,500 yards north of Berismenil.

LaRoche - January 1945

Berismenil, Belgium - Today

Only sniper fire was encountered and the objective was taken by 1100. At 1415, the 1st Battalion went forward again to take another hill about 750 yards northeast of Berismenil - one of our commanders once said wistfully: "Every time I see a hill, I know it's going to be our next objective." By 1800, the 1st Battalion had taken its second hill against light resistance. Nevertheless, the situation was confused because orientation in the dark was difficult. When a patrol carrying blankets was fired on from the rear, it was clear that the battalion was almost entirely surrounded by the enemy.

347th Infantry Regiment of the 87th Infantry Division get a meal
after getting winter boots near Berismenil - 13 January 1945

Later that night, a reconnaissance patrol was sent to investigate the enemy's position south of the hill but failed to return. Then the battalion commander, Major Roland L. Kolb, decided to see for himself. Leading another patrol, he suddenly observed a German "command car" pull up to the base of the hill and halt. Two men stepped out and began to walk up the hill. When the pair approached near enough, the patrol jumped out of hiding. One of their prisoners turned out to be Captain Hanagottfried von Watzdorf, commander of the 1st Battalion, 60th Panzer Grenadiers, 116th Panzer Division. Unaware that his MLR had been penetrated to a depth of more than one thousand yards, the German commander was out on a tour of inspection. In perfect English, he exclaimed: "I am astonished." The commander of one battalion had personally captured the commander of the enemy's battalion opposite him and he had to keep him all night before he could deliver him safely. Berismenil itself was captured by the 2nd Battalion, 335th Infantry. It covered three thousand yards of trails, thereby achieving a considerable degree of surprise but giving up all possibility of using any vehicles to back up the attack.

As a result, Berismenil was captured almost without opposition. By the end of the day, 13 January 1945, the enemy had been cleared out of approximately half the 84th Infantry Division's zone. The other half was rapidly cleaned out the next day. Nadrin was occupied by the 1st Battalion, 334th Infantry, at 1130, 14 January 1945. Only some machine guns and small-arms resistance was encountered.

At 0800, 13 January 1945, the 2nd Battalion, 333rd Infantry, jumped off from Les Tailles for the third time in two days. After taking Collas, a little village southwest of Les Tailles, at 1000, it struck out for the woods. Immediately, the terrain became worse than the enemy, though the latter did his best to help. The roads were terrible, barely more than trails. Under the snow, which now had ten days to accumulate, they were invisible. By 1200, the enemy's activity became more stubborn. By the end of the day, we had penetrated only five hundred yards. The problem of getting through the woods was faced that night. Two narrow trails ran through the woods to Dinez and two special task forces were formed to get through these trails. Both started out at 8000 the next day, 14 January 1945.
Here is what became of Major Roland L. Kolb, the American battalion commander who took prisoner a German battalion commander, as printed on page 88 of the Sarasota (Florida) Herald Tribune on 15 May, 2001:

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